Does Declaration of Assets
Apply to the Heads of Maths?
A lot of letters and e-mails have been received by me from the emotionally moved readers in response to my last three columns. They have shed tears reading those columns. Each of their writings is literally rich in character, immensely soul searching, and are highly humanistic. They are in fact pretty good articles worthy of publication. Human values showcasing a global family in line with, “vasudhaiva kuTumbakaM” are exemplified in their writings. To resent matters that cause sadness is but natural. To embrace matters that cause happiness are also equally natural. But to find happiness while grieving from matters that bring sadness is extraordinary. “duHkhEna sAdhvee labhatE sukhAni” (A noble housewife finds solace in grief) – so says MahAbhArata (Vanaparva 233.4). This is not statement for sadistic pleasure. It is an extremely sensitive humanistic approach to a delicate situation. A tuned string resonates to another string tuned to a similar tone, no matter how distant it is. But a differently tuned string does not resonate to another string tuned to another tone, no matter how near it is.
Just as I was thinking to put this matter to rest and move on to something else, a letter that carried a response different to any others arrived. The author has, in no uncertain terms, condemned my decision not to attend the last rites for my mother. His caustic remark, which is like a dark scar on the cheeks, is as follows: “I have cursed you. In your next life you are sure to be born as a stray dog, my tears to that noble mother!” On reading this, I was reminded of an unusual episode that the great sage Valmiki wrote in the uttarakaaMDa of the epic Ramayana:
One day Shri Ram is busy in a royal meeting at his palace chambers attended by sages, Vasishta, Kashyapa, and others, ministers, economists, philosophers and legal counsel. He asks his brother Lakshman to go to the front door and check if any one is waiting to meet with him. Lakshman goes and comes back to report that there is no one out there. He further praises his brother that under Shri Ram’s administration young and the old alike are all happy without any problems and that was why no one is out there waiting at the front door. Even though Shri Ram is pleased to hear this, he asks Lakshman to go check once more and make sure that there is no one out there waiting to meet the king. When Lakshman goes out this time, he observes a dog barking incessantly near the entry doors with its head wounded and bloodied. Lakshman brings it inside. Shri Ram asks the dog to let go his fears and tell him exactly what had happened. The dog complains that a Brahmin monk named, ‘Sarvartha Siddha’ had beaten him without reason and wounded him. Shri Ram orders his staff to find the monk and to bring him in to the court. Soon the monk is brought in and Shri Ram demands an explanation for his actions. The monk replies that the dog had obstructed his passageway when he was on his way to beg for alms. Even after repeated pleas not to block his way, the dog had persisted and prevented him from begging, and he had gotten upset mainly because he was tired and hungry and beaten the dog. The monk begs for the King’s pardon and goes on to say that even if he is not pardoned, he would still not be sent to hell as he is punished by none other than Lord Shri Ram. Shri ram is nonplussed and seeks the opinion of the members of his court. Everyone in the court opines that the scriptures prohibit punishment to a Brahmin. But the dog demands that the king, should he choose to be impartial, must impose punishment to that Brahmin monk. When Shri Ram asks the dog as to what would be a proper punishment for the dog, the dog replies, “Crown him as the head of the Kaalaanjar Math.” Shri Ram rules that the dog’s wish be carried out. The monk who was greatly relieved, after having feared the worst, is carried in a grand procession to the Kaalaanjar Math seated on an elephant. The members of the royal court are confused and beg Shri Ram for an explanation. Shri Ram smiles and says that the best answer can come only from the victimized dog. Every one turns to the dog now for an explanation. The dog says, “ The reason I asked the monk to be crowned the head of the Kaalaanjar Math is because, I myself was the crowned head of that same Math in my previous life.” This, at once, seems like a riddle and appears to poke fun and ridicule the Maths. In reality, to solve the riddle, one should really follow the shlokas below from sage Valmiki:
“ahaM kulapatistatra AsaM shiShTAnnabOjanaH|
dEvadvijAtipoojAyAM dAseedAsEShu rAghava||
vineetaH sheelasaMpannaH sarvasatvahitE rataH ||
sOhaM prAptaH imaM ghoraamavasthAmadhamAM gatiM |
braHmasvaM dEvatAdravyaM streeNAM bAladhanaM cha yat |
dattaM harati yO bhooyaH iShTaiH saha vinashyati”
In his previous life when he was at the Math, he was righteous and disciplined. He cared for everyone and kind hearted. He ate what was left after all the disciples and servants had dined. As times passed by, slowly he became selfish and greedy and started stealing the contributions of disciples to the Math for himself and for his pre-initiation relatives. This was the reason that he had to be born as a stray dog in his next life and get beaten and stoned by people!
What a marvelous moral statement is latent in this episode! All the religious heads crowned by humble and naïve disciples, the political leaders elected by the believing public, and the chiefs of public institutions have an important lesson to learn from this moralistic story from Valmiki Ramayana. If they do not, then their fate would not be too different from the dog in that episode. Unaware of all these, my mother as the first teacher in my life taught me these morals in her own way! As stated in a previous column, she had become aware of the loan that her caretakers had borrowed from the Math when she was at the hospital and upon her discharge, had made sure to approach me and return the loan herself stating, “I should not die in debt to the Math and bring a bad name to you. So please take this back.” She had, in effect, followed the commandment conveyed in that moralistic story. It is not an exaggeration that one of the readers opined, “Who could say that she was illiterate; she had all the wisdom of the world. Oh, such a humble and noble soul!” The fact that I was nominated by my mother, just before her death, to be the recipient of an amount of 3 lakh rupees that was meant to be my mother’s pension after each of my three pre-initiation sisters had shared the paternal property was deposited in the Karnataka Bank at Shimoga came to light. If I have to follow the writing, “All the legislative leaders including any public officer in top levels should declare their assets” in this same newspaper by D.V. Shailendrakumar, the chief justice of the Karnataka High Court, then this is my revelation of my holdings to my disciples and to the general public. Philosophically the leaders of Maths have Zero personal property. This can be grasped in two ways. One, ordinarily they do not possess any personal property, and extra-ordinarily their property consists of, “Zero Earning!”(Shoonya sampadane). They are only the caretakers of the contributions of the disciples and not their owners! Those who teach that, “AdhyAtma chiMtane” (Spiritual Thinking), means eternal thinking of God Almighty should remember one thing. The Swamijis who consider that service to their disciples is the service to GOD Almighty, do not see yet another Shiva to meditate upon!
Swamis do not have families. Even then, they happen to possess a family having been entrusted to be the leaders of Maths. They carry a lot more responsibility than the head of an undivided family. Those heads of Maths who manage societies and institutions for their welfare have even more of a humongous burden on them along with problems and conflicts. It is not enough just to have spiritual and physical knowledge. It is not an exaggeration to say that the present day heads of Maths need to be trained to manage monetary affairs as well. Transparency is essential in public life. Obama, the President of USA has just made an announcement last Friday –Every month, the names of those who visited the White House, his official residence, and the times of their visit in the past three months would be made public via the internet. “Americans have a right to know whose voices are being heard in the policy making process” is the official statement put forth by the White House.
As I was growing up, one who moulded me to be sincere and accurate in financial affairs was my pre-initiation father, Easwaraiah and in the prime of my life, my ever-revered teacher Shri. Shivakumara Shivacharya Mahaswamiji guided and prodded me along. While at school, my father insisted that I keep an accurate account of anything I spent. Often, he used to audit and sign my records. Once, my account fell short by one half rupee. A friend in need had borrowed it from me. Then, my father had cautioned me never to lend and never to borrow. While I was a research student for my doctorate degree at the Banaras Hindu University, I had received a lump sum of 8000 rupees paid retroactively from a Junior Research Fellowship that was awarded to me. When I had conveyed this good news to my pre-initiation father, an unexpected request had come from him. He had hesitantly talked about some financial hardship in the family and asked that money to be sent to him. He had promised to repay all of it with interest soon. Facing a dilemma whether to give or not, I had sought the counsel of my Guruji at the Brihanmath. The return mail from my Guruji arrived with the following instructions: “It will cause a very bad opinion among our disciples about you, if you give money to your father. Definitely, do not give it to your father.” My eyes were wet with tears as I wrote to my father that I could not send him the money as I was ordered not to give it to him!